It's a common refrain, the Cowboys need to improve on their pitiful pass rush of 2014. They went a long way in their signing of Greg Hardy. He will certainly give them an elite pass rusher to pair with the development of DeMarcus Lawrence. However, the NFL has yet to rule on a potential punishment for the troubled player.
The Cowboys will likely have to wait for Greg Hardy's debut and in that case will need to add reinforcements early. This year's draft may not have a plethora of premier rushers to grab, making it all the more important to grab one as early as they see fit. Here's a look at some pass rushing defensive ends that could really help the Cowboys solidify the unit.
1. Alvin "Bud" Dupree, 6'4 269 lbs, Kentucky
A very productive pass rusher in college due to his long arms and athletic gifts. Dupree has great burst and impressive technique. For a rookie, he'll come to the NFL with a various book of successful pass rushing moves. Dupree was a highly touted leader on and off the field and has a great pedigree and mind for the defensive line. He's also pretty good when asked to drop into coverage and possesses rare speed to get around the corner in a flash. He relies mainly on his speed and shedding techniques but needs work to not hand-fight and get tangled with would-be blockers. Dupree has all the excellent tools wanted in an NFL-ready pass rusher, just needs work to use strength a bit more. Bud is an elite talent and will definitely be selected in the first round, perhaps before Dallas has a chance to sniff him.
2. Owamagbe Odighizuwa, 6'3 267 lbs, UCLA
He's perhaps my favorite of the pass rushers and most likely to be available at 27. He adds an instant impact rushing the quarterback. Odighizuwa has the perfect combination of burst and power to beat blockers and get to the quarterback. He has the versatility to move inside and shows great effort. Odighizuwa has also shown his ability to be great at stuffing the run. He's so agile a quick that he can be placed at any point on the line and create disruption. Great edge sealer and great pick should Dallas pull the trigger at 27.
3. Preston Smith, 6'5 271 lbs, Mississippi State
Great size and length for the position, has probably the most impressive wingspan of any of the defensive ends and outside linebackers. Very heavy hands that allow him to dispose of blockers easily. Like Dupree, Smith possesses an array of pass rushing moves. Smith has shown his versatility to line up inside and penetrate the A-gap with his agility and strength. He's doesn't have the desired twitch to beat tackles routinely off the edge, he will definitely need development in that area. Preston takes well to coaching and due to the lack of much behind him, could find his way into the first round or start of the second.
4. Mario Edwards Jr, 6'3 279 lbs, Florida State
Edwards uses his long arms and strong hands tom keep blockers of his frame. He's got great vision and penetration ability with awareness to get up the field. Edwards exhibits good acceleration and is often able to get tackles to retreat. He's shown the ability to eat up a lot space toward the quarterbacks left side and is flexible and loose-hipped. Mario has great balance but may be best suited as a 3-4 end or 4-3 tackle. He'll need help with snap recognition as Edwards is usually the last lineman off the ball and could take better angles in run defense. However, Edwards has shown the will to learn and could be a solid day two pick for any team in need.
5. Trey Flowers, 6'2 266 lbs, Arkansas
Flowers looks the part of a NFL defensive lineman with his broad shoulders and overall musculature. Trey can generate good speed and initial quickness off the ball. He also uses his length and strength in his arms to effectively discard blockers and wrap up ball carriers. Flowers does lack ideal flexibility and explosiveness at times and will need work learning how to set the edge efficiently. Flowers will likely be a second or third round option. If Dallas wants to focus elsewhere in the beginning, Flowers could be had later and be a solid add to the rotation.
6. Za'Darius Smith, 6'4 273 lbs, Kentucky
Dupree's counterpart was often overlooked but has the same relentless spirit as an edge rusher. Smith has surprisingly quick burst off the edge and solid core power. Smith has very active hands and has mastered the swim and swat moves. Za'Darius has great vision and rarely loses sight of the ball. He's a fiery competitor and physical tackler and striker. Smith possesses only average speed but shows his passion in every snap. He has a never-give-up attitude and plays hard all the time. He's a very physically and mentally tough player and coach's dream. He sometimes has wild angles and needs to control his momentum better. He also needs work anchoring down to not get driven off the ball so easily. He's still somewhat new to the game and will need more development but could be a solid pick in the third round.
7. Anthony Chickillo, 6'3 267 lbs, Miami
A very thickly-built frame and constant weight-room warrior. Chickillo has a strong upper body that he uses to bully blockers. Anthony has a stout lower body and anchors well at the point of attack. He's also shown very coordinated footwork that will translate well in his development at the next level. He's a true hustler with an impressive motor that should put him on Marinelli's radar. He always keeps his eyes elevated and has a knack to bat down passes. He's an extreme competitor but lacks the ideal arm strength. He's a fast player but needs better control and better closing speed. Chickillo often struggles with too much aggression in his hands without proper usage. He also has a limited repertoire of pass rushing moves but shown the capabilities to be coached up. He's a warrior on the field and will play through anyone and anything to be successful. Very solid effort and always keeps the switch turned on. Chickillo is a bottom-third or top of the fourth round pick.
If the Cowboys want a true pass rusher, they will need to use one of their first two picks. The depth at the position is not as good as you would like. The Cowboys will continue in the draft to throw bodies at the issue and see what sticks. In our next part of the series, we'll finally take a look at some of those interior linemen.